MANCHESTER, N.H. — During the final leg of a tour through New Hampshire, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday the country's education system needs to focus less on granting four-year college degrees and more on helping people learn the skills that lead to high-paying jobs.
The Florida Republican is touring the country to promote his book "American Dreams" as he weighs a 2016 presidential bid. He spoke at St. Anselm College, his third public event in two days in the early presidential voting state.
"We need a new higher education system, for example, that graduates more people from high school ready to go to work," he said. "We need to have a system for people who are working full time and raising a family to acquire the skills they will need to get a better job."
Rubio said it is not enough for Republican candidates to focus on economic growth without also talking about workforce development. High schools and technical schools should be better preparing students to go straight into jobs as welders or medical technicians, he said.
"You can teach people to do this when they're 17, 18 years of age and they can graduate making $45,000 a year as a start," Rubio said.
Rubio, 43, also said people should be able to earn credit for skills they already have rather than paying to take courses to learn them. Single parents who have to work and take care of their kids need more flexible education options in order to advance their careers, he said.
"For most Americans facing those circumstances there is no program that's flexible and affordable to them," Rubio said.
Rubio's comments mirrored a movement in New Hampshire among policymakers to try to match skills to jobs. His stump speech wove together the story of his parents emigrating to the United States from Cuba with his ideas on how to make the "American dream" accessible to more people.
To compete in the global economy, the U.S. needs to reduce regulations that keep companies and individuals from growing, he said.
"We are no longer the place where hard work and perseverance alone is enough to succeed," he said. "The world around us has changed and we've been slow to change with it."